4Babies Are Built Bit by Bit, by Constant Humping
As any teenage boy can tell you, you can't get pregnant from having sex just once. But your average horny teenager's got nothing on Papua New Guinean cultures like the Huli and the Arapesh, because they firmly believed that babies were the product of repeated intercourse. Repeated a lot. They didn't even know it was possible for a single sweaty night to lead to a baby -- they thought it took way more work than that.
"Just 20 more minutes -- the ritual is almost complete!"
For the most part, Huli and Arapesh beliefs were pretty close to being biologically accurate. They understood that sex led to pregnancy, and that babies were the result of man-juice meeting up with something inside the woman's body. So far, so good. The trouble was, they figured infants were actually constructed bit by bit out of sperm and menstrual blood. The man's sperm built the child's skin and bones, while the woman's blood took care of the internal bits. To be honest, Papua New Guinean pregnancies are just a bit too similar to Hellraiser for our comfort.
"The box. You opened it. I came."
Now, if you figure that your average newborn is somewhere around 7 pounds -- and even if you figure that the woman takes care of the internal half -- holy shit that's still a lot of raw building materials for the man to provide. Clearly one night of bangin' isn't going to even come close to cutting it -- instead, these cultures believed that you had to have sex pretty much as often as the man could manage until you had squished together a healthy, viable sperm-and-blood baby.
The Arapesh themselves weren't necessarily all that happy about this situation. They said that there were two kinds of sex: the fun kind, and the kind you had when you wanted to get pregnant. Baby-making was an awful lot of work -- no matter how tired you were, or how not in the mood, you still had to get down to business. And they didn't even have candles and Marvin Gaye to help them out.
"Get up, pussy, you have work to do. Dick work."
So Why Do They Believe It?
This one is obvious. Despite all of those health class lessons about how just one sex act can get a woman pregnant (and it totally can), in general the odds aren't that heavily in favor of a less fertile couple that wants kids. Maybe the guy has lazy sperm, you just don't know. So if you really want to keep the tribe going (and happen to live in a culture where things like fertility tests are some kind of sci-fi sorcery), nonstop humping actually isn't all that crazy of a strategy.
3Multiple Partners? Multiple Fathers!
In an interesting twist on the "babies take a lot of sex" belief, many communities in the Amazon believe not only that a baby is built over time, but that if a mother has had multiple sex partners over that time, her baby will have multiple fathers. After all, if a baby is built of sperm over time, who's to say it has to be just one man's sperm? Lowland South Americans looked at this question, shrugged, and said that clearly, a baby had one mother -- and however many fathers she happened to have slept with in the last nine months.
"I hope he has at least one of your eyes."
So Why Do They Believe It?
The crazy thing -- crazy to Western minds, at least -- is that having more than one dad was totally cool. There was no scandal, and dads weren't angsty about who was more the father. Mothers weren't ashamed, husbands didn't mind, and kids ... hell, the kids loved it. Two dads means twice as many birthday presents and that you get twice as good at playing catch. Or rather, two dads means that there are two men giving you and your mom food when food is scarce, and two dads means that if one of them dies, you have a spare.
"Don't worry, just aim for Daddy Jim -- he'll catch you if you suck."
As for the ladies ... well, first off, they get to choose their sex partners. It may not sound like much, but think about it -- much of human history has seen women having very little say in who they screw, so you've got to give any system that corrects that problem props. And not only do they get to choose; they get the added benefit of having two or more men providing for their kids.
And for guys, it's a giant stress reliever. Anthropologists used to think that no culture anywhere had men who "shared" wives without freaking out about it, but Amazonian cultures proved them wrong. Under the multiple-dad system, paternity is never challenged, just added to, so everybody calms the hell down: They sleep with whomever they want, joke about sex all the time, and don't go around getting into duels over who slept with whom. If some guy slept with your wife, he just has to help take care of the kid -- who is still your kid, too.
"Honey, do you think you could narrow down your standards? Every dinner is becoming a full-on festival."